Democrats Race to Replace Davis

Future Voter

A majority of Congressional District 11 lies inside Hillsborough County. But it also includes a slice of Manatee County and a chunk of South St. Petersburg.

That's where four of the five Democratic candidates could be found last Saturday morning at a Pancake, Children and Candidates forum sponsored by the Children's Campaign and Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.

Tables in the upstairs fellowship hall were decked out in red, white and blue.

That's where candidate Scott Farrell - a 39-year-old Tampa attorney - was shaking hands and passing out brochures near the serving line.

FARRELL: I'm running to be the representative of the 11th District plain and simple I think the only way we're going to have progressive change in the halls of Congress are if democrats take over the house of representatives. The first thing I would do in Congress is we need to address this homeowners' insurance crisis. We need to put a catastrophic homeowners insurance fund together and we need to make sure that homeowners in Florida aren't driven out of their homes because they can't afford their homeowners insurance.

Farrell is one three District 11 candidates who have never held elected office.

Another is Al Fox. But, Fox has spent most of his life as a lobbyist and businessman in Washington D.C.

FOX: I'm running for Congress because I've observed first hand for almost 40 years the Congress up close. Born and raised in Tampa and the only Latin running. I speak fluent Spanish and I believe it was time to have people who run for office say what they think and what they want to do and not be guided by press releases and polls and money. I'm 62 years old. I'm not rich I'm not poor but I'm not beholding to anyone. But I have some specific ideas on immigration, on the war in Iraq and on the United States policy towards Cuba.

Normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba is Fox's campaign theme.

Fixing the Social Security Disability system is Tampa attorney Michael Steinberg's reason for joining the five-way race. Steinberg didn't attend the pancake breakfast but he was reached him by telephone.

STEINBERG: I've been representing people in Social Security Disability claims for about 24 years and each year it's taking longer and longer for a Social Security claimant to get a hearing. Right now, the average is 422 days nationwide, but in Tampa it's about two years. And, several of my clients have died while they were waiting for their hearing. So, I got involved to try to improve the Social Security Disability program as well as the retirement programs Medicare, Medicaid and VA compensation and pension claims.

Steinberg said he feels as if he's already won because he has met with the other candidates and they all agreed with his cause.

There are two candidates with experience in public office. State Senator Les Miller has spent a total of 14 years in the Florida state house and senate.

MILLER: I'm running because I want to continue to work and bring leadership and experience to this district. The people of this district deserve a public servant not a politician. And I'm a public servant. I've always put my constituents' priorities number one. One of the first things I would do is try to file legislation for health care. Forty-five million people in this country don't have health care. Three-point-five million in the State of Florida don't have health care.

Health care also was listed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor when she was asked her first priority should she win the seat.

CASTOR: I'm going to focus from day one on health care reform, access to affordable health care. You know, I've been the most outspoken proponent for our award-winning health care program in Hillsborough County and for the children's health insurance program. It's going to be a health care initiative to get kids and families covered. I'm running for Congress to fight for change and reform in Washington D.C. It has never been more important to find a way out of Iraq, bring our troops home fight for a clean and healthy environment and access to affordable health care.

The man each hopes to replace - Tampa Congressman Jim Davis - does not publicly favor any candidate. But, he did offer this advice.

DAVIS: You know, serving in Congress is a real challenge now. This tragically will go down as a do nothing Congress even more so than the do nothing Congress of Harry Truman. So, getting things done is a big challenge, getting Democrats and Republicans to work together up there, getting Democrats to work together is a challenge up there. So, you want somebody who can really stand up and speak from the heart and really do the job. And you have many qualified candidates who can do that.

The Democrat that receives the highest number of votes in the primary will face-off against the Republican challenger, Eddie Adams Jr., in November.

To learn more about Kathy Castor, click here.

To learn more about Scott Farrell, click here.

To learn more about Al Fox, click here.

To learn more about Les Miller, click here.

To learn more about Michael Steinberg, click here.

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